Republicans in Congress have filed more than 30 federal bills to restrict reproductive choice.
When the conservative majority on the Supreme Court overturned the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade precedent guaranteeing abortion rights in the United States in June 2022, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio cheered.
"I think that right now, this issue is appropriately before the states. That's where it should have always been, that's where it is now, and I think that's where it will be for the foreseeable future. … And frankly, I think this issue is better decided at the state level at this point," he told Miami CBS affiliate WFOR in August 2022.
But in the first two months of the 118th Congress, Republican lawmakers have introduced more than three dozen federal anti-abortion measures, many of which have been sponsored or co-sponsored by Rubio.
Some of the GOP-backed bills would further restrict federal funding for facilities and educational institutions that provide abortion care. Some would bar health insurance plans from covering the procedure. Some would restrict access to medication abortions. And some would expressly ban certain abortion procedures or abortions in certain situations, overruling states' decisions and individuals' choice.
"It shows that it's not actually about returning it to the states or states' rights. It's about anti-abortion politicians wanting to restrict abortion access as much as possible," Morgan Hopkins, president of the abortion rights organization All* Above All Action Fund, told the American Independent Foundation.
"We know this, we've seen it for years," she added. "When politicians restrict abortion care, they're taking away their constituents' ability to control their own lives, and if it was truly about returning it to the states, they wouldn't be taking federal action on it."
The Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe is deeply unpopular. Polls show that most Americans want abortion to be legal in most or all cases. In 2022, voters in six states affirmed their pro-choice views in ballot referendums.
"The GOP is moving to enact their agenda, even though they know that this is not in line with what the majority of Americans want," Ally Boguhn, communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the American Independent Foundation. "They're doing this regardless of how it will harm folks. And we know that these sorts of bans and restrictions disproportionately harm folks of color, folks with low incomes, and other historically marginalized communities."
Republicans in Congress are pushing scientifically unsound bills that could ban abortions after just six weeks' gestation, before many people even know they're pregnant. According to a 2021 report by The 19th News, about 64% of abortions performed in 2018 in the United States were after the six-week point.
Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly and 69 other House Republicans are proposing the Heartbeat Protection Act, which would criminalize doctors who perform abortions after they detect, "according to standard medical practice," what the bill calls a "fetal heartbeat," a term that scientists say is misleading, referring to an organ that does not exist at that stage of gestation.
The Protecting Life from Chemical Abortions Act, introduced by Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern and co-sponsored by 34 House Republicans, is one of several bills that would make it harder for individuals to obtain the drugs needed for a medication abortion.
Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn and 24 GOP colleagues have proposed the Second Chance at Life Act, which would require "abortion providers to inform a patient at least 24 hours in advance that the chemical abortion process may be reversible even after administering the first drug of a two-drug procedure."
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, this is misinformation. "Facts are important, especially when it comes to policies and discussions that impact patients," it notes on its website. "Claims regarding abortion 'reversal' treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards."
The Standing with Moms Act, sponsored by South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace in the House and Rubio in the Senate, would require that taxpayer funds go to create an anti-abortion federal website with links to "crisis pregnancy centers." These facilities often provide false and misleading information in an attempt to manipulate pregnant people into not choosing an abortion.
The Pregnancy Center Security Act, authored by Idaho Sen. James Risch, would create special federal security grants for those crisis pregnancy centers but expressly exclude organizations that "perform, assist, counsel, prescribe, refer to an abortion provider, or encourage abortion."
While these bills are unlikely to become law while Democrats hold the White House and a majority in the Senate, they are a preview of what could happen if Republicans were to win control of Congress and the White House in 2024.
"This issue is not going away. We're in a long, long-term fight," observed All* Above All Action Fund's Hopkins. "I think it shows voters that the overturning of Roe was not the end. The anti-abortion politicians will continue to try to restrict any access to abortion care. And I think we will see it remains a top mobilizing issue into '24 and possibly beyond."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.